Responsible Government

 

The struggle for responsible Government had been launched in Travancore and Cochin by 1938-39. The struggle in Cochin was far less in intensity than that in Travancore because the rulers of Cochin adopted on the whole, a lenient policy of political concessions which averted violent clashes. In June 1938 a diarchal form of Government was established allowing popular ministers to control some departments. This did not work and the Cochin Praja Mandalam was founded in 1941 to spearhead the agitation for full responsibility in Government. The Travancore State Congress launched a campaign seeking dismissal of the Dewan, C.P.Ramaswamy Iyer, against whom they had levelled certain charges.

 

The State Congress and the Youth League were banned. The State Congress then organized a civil disobedience movement. The rising tempo of the movement forced the Government to withdraw the ban. The Dewan refused to open negotiation until the charges were withdrawn. The charges were finally withdrawn following Gandhiji's intervention. This created a split in the Congress. The members of the Youth League left the State Congress to form the Communist Party. The end of the Quit India Movement saw Malabar returning to elections and a constitutional Government. Administratively Malabar was a district of Madras Province at the time of independence. In Kochi diarchy was finally abolished and on the eve of independence the Dewanship ended. A popular ministry under Panampally Govinda Menon was sworn into power.

 

Punnapra-Vayalar Revolt

Travancore, however, was not destined to have a peaceful transition to freedom democracy. In October 1946, she had to face one of the most violent upheavals in her recent history - the Punnapra-Vayalar revolt. It developed as a reaction to the constitutional scheme proposed by the Dewan, C P Ramaswamy Iyer, early in January, 1946. The scheme provided for adult franchise, but retained the dewanship as an irremovable exertive. The State Congress rejected the scheme. The Communists decided to launch a violent struggle to bring an end to the oppressive rule of the Dewan. The coastal taluks of Alappuzha and Chertala were, in particular the strongholds of the Communist Party. By the middle of 1946, there were many camps of party workers at Punnapra in Alappuzha and at Vayalar in Chertala.

 

Volunteers from the working class were recruited and given training. This increased the tension in the area. The government deployed not only the police but the military also. This worsened the situation. The All Travancore Trade Union Congress called for a general strike on 20 October 1946. Martial law was clamped in the area and the Dewan himself assumed the functions of the commander-in-chief. The impassioned workers and volunteers preferred confrontation - stones, bamboo spikes, areca spears and swords confronting machine guns. What followed from 24 to 27 October, was a tale of heroism and tragedy.

 

The revolt was suppressed. But this did not bring the difficulties of the Dewan to an end. A political crisis was again precipitated when the British announced their decision to leave India. The Dewan announced that Travancore would remain an independent State on the lapse of British paramountcy. This unleashed a fierce controversy. The Dewan let loose the forces of repression. In the midst of repression and confusion, an unsuccessful attempt on his life was made. Better counsel prevailed and the Dewan made his exist from the State. With the advent of freedom, Travancore was part of the Indian Union and the first popular ministry under Pattom A.Thanu Pillai was installed.

 
 

Source: IT Department, Government of Kerala